Thursday Spring Training tidbits: Craig, contracts, Lugo, more

Greetings from Port St. Lucie, where the sun is shining brightly and the wind is blowing briskly. The Cardinals are taking batting practice as I write this, and there will be a baseball game in an hour and a half. Life is good.

March-4-pregame-006.jpg

Anyway, on with the tidbits.

* Allen Craig has a sore left quadriceps muscle and was scratched from the travel roster today. He’s likely out for a few days.

* The Cardinals agreed to terms on 2010 contracts with all 24 of their pre-arbitration players. I’ll have stories on each of these top two topics on the site a little bit later today.
* TLR said that several factors played into his leaving some of the team’s top stars back in Jupiter today. One is the fact that the Mets are starting knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. Another, though, is that they’re going to hit live off of Adam Wainwright.
Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina and Felipe Lopez (plus youngster Tyler Henley for left-handed balance) are all hitting off of Wainwright back at camp.
One factor that went unmentioned: it’s nice to have the biggest stars play in the first home spring game, which is tomorrow.
* Veteran position players will likely get 2-3 at-bats today.
* From the pitchers who made the trip today (see the list here), three are not expected to pitch: Lance Lynn, Ben Jukich and Fernando Salas. They are here as protection, in case some of the scheduled pitchers are not able to last as long as hoped.
* TLR said that Julio Lugo has a chance to make an impression at shortstop this spring, and that his defense there is something of an unknown. Lugo was once a plus defensive shortstop, before knee troubles hampered him significantly. 
“Tyler [Greene] will play the second half today, and Tyler will start there tomorrow,” the manager said. “Julio can definitely make an impression there.
“It’s unknown because it’s a brand new year. I knew him before he had his knee injury. Now it’s a year later. He’s in as good a shape as anybody we have in camp. He’s in great shape. He looks like he’s 25 years old.”
Today’s playlist is simple and classic. It’s side one of the Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main Street, which I played on the way up this morning.
“Rocks Off”
“Rip This Joint”
“Shake Your Hips”
“Casino Boogie”
“Tumbling Dice”
-M.

12 Comments

Mr. Leach, I especially enjoyed your tweets from the ballparks last year. I know you work for MLB as a beat reporter for the Cardinals. I wonder if you could (or would feel or be allowed to) provide your honest, independent opinion as to the whole McGwire situation. I hate that I just can’t get past this issue. But, it goes totally against the grain of what MLB, and especially Cardinal baseball, is all about to me. I’m sincerely disgruntled as a lifelong Cardinal and baseball fan right now. Here’s what I think:
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?v=app_2373072738&gid=271224393096#!/topic.php?uid=271224393096&topic=14236
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?v=app_2373072738&gid=271224393096#!/group.php?v=info&gid=271224393096

I’d love to hear your honest independent comments!

1. I do not work for the league. Don’t know why people think that. I am not a league employee. I am an employee of a separate company called MLB Advanced Media.

2. My opinions are always honest and independent.

3. My view “as to the whole situation” could cover a whole lot of ground. Got a specific question?

-M.

Sorry, didn’t mean to imply that what you say or write would not be honest. Just didn’t know if you were affiliated in such a way with the Cardinals or MLB so that you might have to squelch your comments to avoid much in the way of opinions in regards to certain issues, especially if they happen to be opposed to the organization. For those of us who are having trouble with the whole issue with Mac being hired by the Cardinals and just working in baseball, in general. I was just interested in your overall opinion, really I guess. Doesn’t the fact that it sounds like it was illegal activity used to gain an unfair advantage on the field of play, at the time, on the part of Mac and other users really tarnish the game? Don’t you think it goes against what the Cardinals are really all about to get involved in hiring him within the organization? Don’t you think that in order for MLB to truly get tough on steroid use, fans are going to have to start thinking objectively about this issue, no matter what team a player plays/played for? I mean it just seems that fans boo other players mercilessly–calling them cheaters and totally denigrating them. But, when it comes to one of their own team’s players, they tend to embrace. The Kenny Rogers ball doctoring incident in the world series comes to mind. And, really, as bad as that was, what Mac and others did, was much, much worse–and, in fact, really appears that whether or not they were banned by baseball, these activities broke serious criminal laws. I don’t know. I’m really having trouble with this…it just doesn’t seem right at all to me. I guess if you don’t mind reading what is written in the two links above, it would be great to see any comments you may have on the issue.

I’m hearing more comments similar to mine in face-to-face conversations. But, the (presumably younger) fans online seem to not care and just want to blow it off and just welcome him back. What are you hearing among those that you come in contact with? I’ve recently seen that people like the Busch family, Whitey Herzog, Jack Clark, etc have come out against it. I think welcoming him back makes Cardinal fans more superficial than I ever thought we, as a group, really were. I think it brings us and our credibility as great baseball fans down quite a bit. What kind of things are you hearing from your perspective?

I’m just not into this season, at all.

You make very valid points ronm. I think the thing you have to remember is the ownership is so much different than in the 80′s. Such as K. Hernandez and Porter when they had drug problems and were shipped out immediately!

However, I’m still not sold on the big steroid scandal was the cause of the HR boom. Today’s lineups stacked with 2-3 power hitters forcing pitchers to actually throw to one of them. Also, no one ever mentions how the ball parks being built today are smaller than the previous park the team’s played in. For instance, there’s no more Veterans Stadium, Astrodome, Candlestick just to name a few. Now, there’s Minute Maid and Coors Field. Another point to this is pitchers today don’t have the same bite that they had in the 80′s and prior, the mound has been lowered and the strike zone has shrunk in size. Why is this stuff never brought up Matt? We’re supposedly in a clean league now and guys are still hitting 50+ homers a year.

I definitely agree that the Oakland ownership seems to be changing or to have changed the organization. I don’t believe the Busch family ever would have stood for this. It doesn’t appear to be the Cardinal Organization that I grew to identify myself with and to be proud of. It seems that the problems that were initiated at ground zero in Oakland have followed this Oakland group and found tolerance in St. Louis.

I agree that smaller ball parks, smaller strike zones, the armor players use so they can crowd the plate, less foul territory giving hitters more extra chances, etc, etc, etc all seem to add to offensive production. I’m not going to check facts for this post at this point, but, even with all of those noted changes, all of the evidence I have seen shows a definite spike in home runs for the several year period known as the steroid era. And, I don’t believe that home run production, as a whole, has ever caught up, or even really gotten very close to those numbers since. This is even considering that several of the newer ballparks, with so many of the offensive advantages, weren’t even put into service until after that era was supposedly substantially over. Yes the mound was lowered. But that happened quite a while ago. Again, not checking facts for this, right now. I will go do that at some point if it is required. But, it seems that there was an increase in offense after this occurrence–mostly away from so many 1-0, 2-1 ball games. But, the real spike, specifically in HR’s didn’t seem to happen until the years commonly known to be the steroid era. I’m sure there are guys trying to cheat now..some may be getting away with it. From what I understand, unless something has changed in the last couple of years, it is hard to prove anything definitive about HGH anyway. But, I hear that there are other things out there that some think are undetectable. I just think, for the good of the game, baseball needs to get tough on this form of criminally illegal cheating to regain any credibility at all with the substantive, true baseball fans. There are plenty of guys out there who would love a shot to make it to the big leagues playing legitimately. And, they would be embraced quite quickly by the superficial fans anyway–they are just rah rah anything their team does anyway.

As long as the policy continues to provide second, third, fourth chances– whatever it is–a player who feels he is losing his edge, is worried about retaining his status in baseball and in life if he can’t perform at a high enough level to keep getting a big contract or just staying on the big league roster–a desperate player without high principles, I feel will be inclined give it a shot. I think there will always be someone telling them they have a new thing that cannot be detected And, with the current policy, they may just feel that burning one or two of those extra chances, if it comes to it, may just be worth the current consequences of getting detected.

At any rate, it seems in a very strong way that what Mac, Bonds and the others did was very serious illegal criminal activity in regards to criminal law. If that group is going to be allowed to work in professional baseball and retain their il-gotten accomplishments, I really don’t know who should ever be banned. I can’t imagine anything tarnishing the game more than this did. No matter what, the Cardinals hiring Mac brings the organization way down in my eyes from what I ever thought they were all about. And, the fans, who were, as a whole, once considered the greatest, most intelligent fans in baseball, seem to be, for the most part, showing that they are just as superficial as the Giants fans who embraced Bonds and the Yankee fans who embrace(d) or tolerate(d) A-Roid and Giambi. Even the supposedly obnoxious Cub fans would never tolerate Sosa working for the Cub organization in any capacity, I don’t believe.

Ron, I had a whold dissertation written in response, but I’ll shorten it. Whereas I dont totally disagree with anything you say, and I read you fb page. I do agree with the commenter that said “where’s the line?” But I also see your point. I would say don’t lay all your disdain on Mac and the Cardinals, when MLB and the MLBPA knew what was going on the whole time. In short they needed the homerun chase to bring people back to baseball. I think all Cardinal fans who were around then know what Mac’s name by 70 means and what Bond’s name by 72 (or what ever number that is) and 7xx(what ever that number is) means. That is what is superficial, the numbers. But in the end those things don’t matter. These people are entertiners. They are here in part for our enjoyment, yes I know they are doing what they love to do, but they are engaged in sport. The NFL had the same problem, except they squashed it, thats why you don’t hear about it. Here’s the other thing, the feds have already come out and said they were after the dealers, not the users. There again wheres your disdain for the FBI, or what ever the investigating party was? What does the law state? I’m sure it’s illegal to deal the drugs, sell the drugs, maybe even own the drugs. Is it illegal to take them? My point: In Illinois until this year it was illegal for anyone under 18 to BUY tobacco, but to have it in their posession or to use it was not. I think also that Cubs fans would have Sosa, if he could remember to speak English. The last thing I’ll say is, and dont take this the wrong way, but if you’re so disinteresed in the Cardinals this year, why then are you on here? If you’re so disinterested, stay away, don’t watch them on TV, dont go to games, dont read about them on here. And please dont tell us how much you are not interested and then contradict your self by coming on here and saying so. Because if you wern’t you would be here in the first place. Rather, I think you are interested, but you are disgruntled, which you have every right to be. The great thing about us and where we live is that we are allowed to make mistakes and be welcomed back. None of us are perfect. We have all dont things we are not proud of. You may not like him or what he did, thats fine, but remember it is not your place nor mine to judge him, that is left to the Lord.

I know none of this is on topic Matt, sorry!

I will be brief and honest here, and make a few points since I was asked to participate.

1. I’m really, REALLY tired of the whole topic. That’s the honest truth. I’ve said it on radio, I’ve said it elsewhere. Steroids, and particularly McGwire and steroids, comes up, and I just start to zone out. I find it hard to muster much more than fatigue. So that’s the preface to what follows.

2. Because of that, I’m not going to get involved in the lengthy and evidently thoughtful back-and-forth y’all have going. I appreciate that you folks have thought-out viewpoints, I respect that, and I thank you much for respecting each other.

3. In short, my view on steroids in baseball: a lot of guys did it, both pitchers and hitters. A lot of guys did other things that were against the rules, and in some cases illegal, over the years as well. And a lot of other factors, in addition to steroids, have contributed to the offensive explosion. And a lot of guys in other sports did it too.

4. As for McGwire in particular, I don’t view him much differently from someone who was suspended for not passing a drug test — and there are quite a few of those guys playing in the Majors, including one in a prominent role on the Cardinals.

I think that’s about all I’ve got to say on it. I just don’t have the outrage some people do. I wish the stuff were out of the game entirely and had never been in it, and I wish everyone played on a level playing field. But the game is the game, the game is great, and the game endures. IMO.

-M.

@bcotner: I guess you are correct…really for the first time in my life, though, (well except when I was going through a divorce right after they went on strike in 94) I am disinterested in whats going on on the field because for the first time in my life I am disgruntled as a fan. Btw, this whole home run chase thing isn’t what brought me back the first time. It was the Seattle Mariners/Randy Johnson one game playoff then fifth game, then 7th game of the first two rounds of the playoffs. Maybe he was on roids, too…who knows? When the whole home run gimmick came around, I was a little frustrated. I’m not a big fan of home runs. Kind of like in golf…you drive for the show and putt for the dough. In baseball, a home run should just generally just be a by product of trying to hit the ball hard on a line and hitting the ball just right. Don’t even like trying to just hit a home run/long fly ball unless there is an opportunity to knock in a runner from third with a sac fly. Then go for the fences if you want. Finally, that year I said, ok well it will be nice to have the HR title in St. Louis. Then let’s get back to playing Cardinal fundamental baseball. I even took a little league team, after they played very well as a team and beat everyone’s expectations, to see Mac hit #66. That’s something I never will forget…seeing their eyes light up and all of the flash bulbs all around the stadium. By the way, I don’t dislike Mac. I just think we need to think objectively about this and consider the issue no matter for what team a player played. And, in looking at it, what Mac did is no better than what Bonds and the others did.

Also, this whole notion that the players are entertainers more than ball players to rationalize steroid use sounds exactly like what the WWE wrestlers say. I don’t keep up with that. But, I’ve heard one of them say that he’s not just a wrestler, he’s a “sports entertainer”. In fact, I think he called himself the “greatest sports entertainer in history”. So, is this where we are going with baseball? Next, instead of on field batting practice, are the players going to start coming out of a fog at the wagon gates one at a time, with explosions coming up out of the field and with story lines & taunting the opposing players and other league competitors? Pre game stare downs, story lines and get our juices flowing, mini-brawls will really get the new brand of fans fired up. Let’s go with that.

I don’t care if they “all” were doing it. If there was one anywhere in professional baseball who was trying to make it ligitimately, then “all” of them should get the boot. Even that player currently with the prominent role, Ludwick, I presume, if he broke a baseball law or a criminal law should get the boot. When Ankiel did HGH, at least I believe it was before baseball banned it. And, he apparently got a prescription for it and presumably truly used it to recover from an injury, I believe. If there was anything illegitimate about that, then both he and the doctor should have been brought up on charges and banned from baseball.

Obviously, MLB is selling out real baseball and the true baseball fans in favor of gimmicks and the superficial fans. At least we should stop pretending that baseball cares about credibility and legitimacy. Heck unban Rose and anyone else who was ever banned. I still don’t know the full extent of his gambling when he was a manger. If he shaved points or bet against his team or for his team with a point spread, that’s terrible. If he gambled at all, that’s taboo. His hits record isn’t tarnished so his onfield accomplishments should be touted and in the hall whether he is allowed to work in baseball again or not.

And really, at this point, who should really care about the rest of what he did anyway, he was just an entertainer anyway right? Why does baseball pretend to care so much about that? I guess they just want to enforce things that might upset the gambling and gaming industry.

I do care what happens and I do love the Cardinals. That’s why I’m so upset and disappointed with them. I can no longer look a fan from another team in the eyes and say and feel with conviction that the Cardinals are the best organization in baseball and/or that we have the best, most knowledgeably fans in the game.

Obviously, I’m a purist and I should just pass the game off to the fans who don’t care so much about knowing/following the intricacies of the actual game–like pitching, defense and fundamental team play– and instead just care about being entertained with 9 home runs in each game, no matter how many criminal laws they have to break or otherwise how they come about.

Last point, it’s not just illegal steroid use. I don’t know why players don’t get hauled off when they fight, too. Of all of the Cub players, the one I thought had the most class at the time I’m going to discuss was Michael Barrett. At the time, I told someone, after I saw an interview with him, that he could be a Cardinal. But, when he hauled off and punched Pierzynski, no matter why or what Pierzynski said or might have done, I said he should have been carted off the field by security in handcuffs. No telling how many little leaguers up and punched another player crossing the plate that following week. But, the bottom line is, if you or I would haul off and punch a co-worker, there would be no hesitation. In a heartbeat, we would lose our job, be taken to jail and face a judge, be fined or imprisoned, incure big legal fees, most likely be required to get anger management counseling among other things. The kids especially need to see what really happens in real life if you break the law, not get a sense that the ballplayers do it, so it’s really ok.

Besides, why do players get exemptions from regular everyday criminal laws on the field or within baseball, anyway?

I’m really sorry that people are tired of this discussion. I guess what I say to that is it’s the Cardinals who created this whole distraction on themselves. They are the ones who brought this sore issue back to the forefront.

When you are running an organization/managing a team should you avoid distractions like the plague? You certainly shouldn’t create them on your own.

I and others may be perpetuating it because we are so sickened that we just can’t let it drop. But, whoever, within the Cardinal organization, made the decision to hire Mac really are the ones who brought this distraction upon themselves and upon Cardinal Nation.

Thank you for sharing this information. The information was very helpful and saved a lot of my time.

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